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Sen. Tammy Duckworth Weighs In On Election, VP Prospect


Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth has a lot on her mind right now, like Veterans Affairs, mail-in voting, also what the rest of this year is going to look like for her two young daughters during a pandemic. Oh, and she's also on Joe Biden's mind as a potential running mate. Our co-host Noel King spoke to the senator on Zoom yesterday, and Noel got right to the point.


Do you want to be vice president?

TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I want Joe Biden to get elected. I'll play any position on his team that he thinks will help lead us out of the crises that we're in, whether it's the global pandemic, whether it's our economy, whether it's our foreign adversaries. You know, I really am very neutral as to what position I play. I just want to get him elected so that we can get this country back on track again.

KING: There are some things that do set you apart from other potential running mates. You are a veteran of the United States military.

DUCKWORTH: Yes, I served 23 years in the Army, and I'm very proud of that service. And I do think that it provides me with a deep understanding of national security issues and issues when it comes to protecting our homeland and how we deal with adversaries and also friends and allies around the world.

KING: President Trump has a solid base of support in the military community among active-duty members and even more support among veterans. That's what polling tells us. Why do you think that is?

DUCKWORTH: Our military men and women, first and foremost, are about protecting and defending this nation. And President Trump is the commander in chief of our military, so there is a built-in loyalty within the system for your leadership. But I will tell you that the baby boomer generation has now almost completely transitioned out of the military. And the Gen Xers - my generation - are now the ones that are becoming the leaders of the military, and millennials are mid-career. So millennials are the ones that are now company commanders. They've got 10 years in. The military is actually undergoing a major demographic shift, and Gen Xers and millennials are far more socially progressive than where President Trump and the Republican Party is right now.

KING: That's an interesting point about the changing demographics of the military. I guess the next election will be one of those points at which we can see whether or not that's bearing out. You have expressed concerns that President Trump is going to try and limit mail-in voting in November's election or you've expressed concerns that he might mess with the process. Why do you think that? What is your concern here?

DUCKWORTH: Well, first, he wants to delay the election - right? - which, according to the Constitution, he can't do. He made that tweet. And now, after months of promoting confusion and spreading misinformation about vote by mail, he's saying Floridians should do it. I voted by mail from Iraq in 2004, you know? If we can manage vote by mail from a war zone, we can manage vote by mail within the United States.

KING: You are the mom of two young daughters, ages 2 and 5. Do I have that right?

DUCKWORTH: Yes, yes, yes.

KING: OK. So you are in a position that a lot of parents in America are in right now, which is that we are looking toward an August, September, October in which we don't know whether children are going back to schools and, if they're not going back to schools, what we should be doing with them while they're at home. Does being the mother of school-age children give you any particular insight at this time in terms of understanding what parents are experiencing in a way that you think might make the case that you should be vice president of the United States because you get it?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I know what the other moms are going through because I'm going through it, right? I just found out last night that my daughter's school in Virginia Gardens (ph) - she is going to be faced with, from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, online education. She can't do that by herself. And how do I provide that as a mom? How do I act as the best teacher's assistant I could possibly be to help my daughter be successful five days a week and still do my job?

KING: I'd like you to answer your...


KING: ...Own hypothetical. How are you going to do it? What's your plan?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I am incredibly privileged where I can do something with my schedule. I'm going to - I try to home-school her now - I have since March - in the morning until noon. You know, I started off with all sorts of great intentions. We're going to do experiments, and we're going to go on nature walks in the yard, and we're going to do science, and we're going to do this. At this point, I just shove five worksheets in front of her that I tear out of a workbook that I bought online.

KING: Oh (laughter).

DUCKWORTH: If she finishes that, I am grateful. And think about all the moms out there who've got to go show up to work, whether they're a nurse on the front lines of this pandemic or they're, you know, holding down three jobs at three different fast-food chains, trying to make ends meet. We have to do something in this country. And that's why I think so strongly of Joe Biden's plan for a caring economy that will include things like universal pre-K, that will include funding for paid child care to help families be able to afford child care to take care of our kids so that we can get back to work and grow our economy.

KING: Senator Tammy Duckworth, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate your time.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.